How it works
THE North East is at the dawn of a new “green” industrial era which has the potential to create thousands of jobs after a newly-created business unveiled plans to recover the North Sea’s untapped coal reserves.
Newcastle-based business Five-Quarter says there is enough coal left under the sea to “power the world for five years” using a process known as underground coal gasification.
London-based investment bank Numis Securities has been appointed to help raise an initial £30m to launch the production process.
Five-Quarter hopes to be producing energy within two years. Within a decade, with the operation in full production, it believes it will be employing thousands of people directly and indirectly.
And with one eye on the region’s mining heritage Five-Quarter says it will establish a trust, using a proportion of its profits to fund improvements and economic regeneration work in the region’s rundown former mining communities.
Scientists at Newcastle University have been working on underground coal gasification for over five years and have now teamed up with finance experts to unlock the energy potential of the region’s remaining coal seams.
Newcastle University Professor of Practice Harry Bradbury, a director of Five-Quarter, said: “This is a very exciting project for the region which has the potential to create thousands of jobs in the recovery of gas, the construction and operation of the power plants, but also downstream in engineering, manufacturing and support services.”
Last month Five-Quarter secured approval from the UK Coal Authority to recover reserves in a 400sq km area of the North Sea, stretching from the mouth of the Tyne up to Alnmouth.
It paid over £10,000, with the Coal Authority allowed to take royalties as the two billion tonnes of coal reserves are recovered.
Prof Bradbury said: “This has been cooking for four years using our own resources and support from One North East.
“We are now at the stage where we need major investment which will come through a flotation or private equity investment or a combination of both.
“We have advised Numis Securities to draw up a strategy with a view to floating on the market by the end of the year.
“This is a decade-plus project which will involves significant investment. We are also hopeful of receiving cash assistance from Brussels.”